In the larger Bihar matrix, the key NDA partner, the Nitish Kumar-led JD-U, and NDA’s estranged ally, the Chirag Paswan-headed LJP, are fighting the polls separately. Yet, given their socialist lineage, there are some uncanny similarities in their manifestos, especially on women empowerment and a slew of schemes for the youth.
Besides, it would seem, the issue of corruption is amplified by the opposition RJD, led by Tejashwi Yadav, son of former CM Lalu Prasad. Helming the Grand Alliance, Tejashwi has repeatedly raised corruption in various government schemes in the last 15-year rule of Nitish, and has put the figure as high as upwards of ₹3,000 crore. In comparison, he has asserted, the state’s fodder scam that ousted his father’s government and has resulted in his incarceration in a Ranchi jail was “only ₹46 lakh” as against the projected figure of ₹3,900 crore.
It’s the corruption charges as well as Bihar’s law and order that are sought to be repeatedly projected against the ‘pati-patni ki sarkar’ (Lalu and Rabri) that ruled the state for 15 years. But that was a more distant past than the recent past of “corrupt deeds” in the Nitish government! The only point of immediacy is the fact that Lalu is in jail as fodder scam cases against him continue to come up in courts, a fact which Nitish Kumar has tried to cash in on to the hilt. And the competing corruption figures of the rival sides have not become the only issue in the state polls, the first phase of which kicks off on Oct 28.
The RJD’s promise of 10 lakh jobs for the youth is one stand-alone challenge that has rattled its principal adversary, the JD-U, forcing a sharp response from Nitish and a counter-punch from Tejashwi. Sensing trouble for the ally, the BJP on Thursday (October 22) went a step ahead, promising 19 lakh jobs for the youth, and said it would make Bihar an IT hub, generating 10 lakh jobs.
However, the JD(U)-LJP comparisons are copious, with one visible exception: the LJP’s promise for a Sita’s temple. That would appear more in line with the BJP future plans. The LJP is still an NDA ally at the Centre. The LJP has also sought to rid the state of bureaucrats’ control, which it says crippled the Nitish government.
The JD-U in its ‘Nishchay Patra 2020’ released on Oct 11, has promised ‘Saksham Bihar Swavalambi Bihar (capable Bihar, self-reliant Bihar)’ and has ‘Saat Nishchay (seven resolves) 2.0’ — a vision document for the next five years. The manifesto promises to give women a grant of up to 50% of a project cost, capped to a maximum of ₹5 lakh, for launching a new entrepreneurship programme. It also promises women interest-free loans up to ₹5 lakh.
The manifesto promises financial assistance of ₹25,000 and ₹50,000 to unmarried women who pass their Class 12 and graduation exams, respectively, to promote higher education among women and reduce the total fertility rate. A similar kind of document was released by the JD-U in the form of a common minimum programme endorsed by its then coalition partner, the RJD, ahead of the 2015 assembly polls.
This document aims to use better technology so that the quality of training imparted to youth through industrial training institutes (ITIs) and polytechnic to make them employable can be improved. It also proposed that the district and sub-division level should have the centres for ITI and polytechnic centres and mega skill centres.
To make sure that the youth are not dependent on government jobs, the party has promised to give grants up to 50% of project cost, capped to a maximum of ₹3 lakh, for setting up new entrepreneurship.
The LJP has promised ‘Bihar first, Bihari first,’ besides a host of schemes for women and the youth. Its thrust areas are development of a ‘coaching city’ for the state students to enable them to compete in top exams of the country such as for IITs, IIMs and civil services.
Releasing the vision document on Wednesday (October 21) Chirag Paswan also promised a 10% free health care facility for the less-privileged in state’s private hospitals.
Paswan said an economic zone will be developed with attached IT parks and export promotion platforms and making the single window system with fixed time limit rules mandatory.
He also promised to create an employment portal, where both the job-seekers and employers would be linked directly.
Chirag accused CM Nitish Kumar of propagating casteism in governance and ruining the state’s talent. “If Nitish Kumar wins, Bihar will lose,” he said.